I’ve been wondering what we will talk about this summer as we travel across our divided country. Part of the joy of vacation is meeting new people, striking up conversations with strangers on ferry boats and in coffee houses. Or catching up with far-off family and friends you haven’t seen for years.
But what do we bring up after we say, “How you doing?” It’s a minefield out there.
The weather would normally be a safe topic. Who can argue which way the wind is blowing, but what causes it is something else. Say something like “Nice day, but a little off for July, don’t you think?” and you could prompt a big debate over climate change. You might add something like, “We are really messing up the planet” and find yourself facing off with a local who thinks all scientists should be fired and it’s all in God’s plan that the polar bears learn to swim better.
Shall I assume by the flag on your T-shirt you are my kind of American? Or the other kind?
You might innocently open a newspaper on a park bench next to someone who hates the media. You might ask a stranger where he gets his news and if he said, “I watch Rachel” would you give him a high-five or roll your eyes? And if she said, “O’Reilly’s my man,” would you get up and walk away?
We can get on Congress for having no interest in reaching across the aisle but apparently Greater America has a similar paralysis of cooperation. We don’t agree on who should get married, who should have children and who should decide when they should have them. We don’t even agree on birth control which we thought we had long agreed on.
A Pew Research poll reported that as a country we are at near historic odds. Democrats are more to the left and Republicans more to the right than in recent history and there’s a big wash of independents in between, and who knows what they’re thinking.
If we mapped our vacation route by stereotype think of how many disagreeable places we might have to avoid. Can’t go to that anti-immigrant state. Or the one where they let you bring guns into the bar. Whoa, isn’t this the state that wants to kill Planned Parenthood? Is this the one owned by Big Oil?
Yeah, and I live in a state where everyone grows pot in the zucchini patch.
Oh people, can’t we get along? Probably not likely, especially not this year. Americans are said to be more polarized along partisan lines than at any time in the last 25 years.
If you don’t like unions or think Citizens United is dandy I’m not sure we have much more to say. And if I tell you I listen to NPR and I’m really rooting for the nuns am I going to lose you?
And while we can agree that theses are hard times for most of us you may think it’s my guy’s fault and I think it’s your guy’s fault. And you think my guy has to go. And I think your guy will make it worse.
So, read any good books lately?